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Rockefeller money, a star architect who specialises in old estates on Martha’s Vineyard, a holiday destination for the rich and chic, and anthroposophical ideals – all of this doesn’t necessarily sound like a good prerequisite for cheese with character and flavour. So I had my doubts when friends recently told me about Churchtown Dairy in Hudson, a two-hour drive north of New York City and just under three west of Boston.
And yet, the Coperthwaite, a palm-sized, flat round soft cheese, is a little gem. Its fine sanded washed rind makes for just the right whiff of cowshed to structure the lush, concentrated milk. Whether Marc at Formaggio Kitchen or Kate at Talbott & Arding, all the cheesemongers I spoke to were full of praise.
On paper, there’s far too much idealism behind this cheese (Churchtown Dairy produces a few other varieties, of which I’ve only tried the cream cheese so far – excellent): Abby Rockefeller is one of THE Rockefellers, a feminist and an environmental activist. She commissioned Rick Anderson to design a „beautiful“ farm, on land that belonged to her family and erstwhile home to other dairy farms. Anderson moved several old 1830s buildings from New Hampshire and built a spectacular, completely oversized round barn to go with them, which was finished in 2016. Cows and farmers came from nearby Triform Campbell, an anthroposophical, holistic community, and all is run according to biodynamic principles. The cheeses are named after activists such as Wendell Berry – and William Coperthwaite, a teacher, craftsman, designer and writer who championed the simplicity and integrity of life.
„Each of us tries to live in the best way we know how. I want to contribute to the problems of the world as little as possible. I really believe we must find simpler ways to live or society will collapse.“A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity (2003)
Lest we misunderstand each other, it is a beautiful property. Every detail is aesthetically pleasing: the wooden beams of the high barn ceiling, the star pattern in the roof dome, the vents, the stone arches, the white tiles of the dairy…. and I am sure the 28 dairy cows (a mix of Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Jersey) are just as comfortable in their palace in winter as they were in the surrounding pastures and the open stables with the round arches when I visited in late summer. Whether this is really the simple life Coperthwaite had in mind (who lived in Maine, specialised in building yurts and died in a car accident in 2013) is an open question.